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Colton Baby Homecoming(8)

By: Lara Lacombe



“I’ll tell you what happened,” he began. “But first, I need to call a few people.”

“Who?” The word was innocent enough, but he heard the subtle challenge in her voice.

“My brother and sister. Sam and Annabel are both cops. I’ve had a hell of a day, and I only want to tell this story once.”

Darcy pressed her lips together, and he recognized the expression—she had something to say, but she was holding her tongue. For now. She settled for a nod, and he pulled his phone out and dialed.

It took only a few minutes to reach Sam and Annabel, and fortunately his siblings didn’t press for details. Ridge hung up with a sigh and dropped into the chair by the hospital bed. Penny stepped over and sat at his feet, then laid her head on his lap in a gesture of support. He stroked her head absently, replaying the moments leading up to her finding the baby. Maybe there was something he’d overlooked in the chaos, some clue that would help identify this child and whoever had dropped her on his porch.

Try as he might, though, there wasn’t anything that jumped out in his memories. He hadn’t seen any tracks around his cabin, but then again, he hadn’t really been looking for any. He hadn’t smelled anything unusual, either—no heavy perfumes or colognes had lingered in the air. Of course, Penny would be much better at detecting that kind of thing. Not for the first time, he wished his dog could talk.

“Ridge?” He blinked and looked up to find Darcy staring at him. Her expression made it clear this wasn’t the first time she’d said his name, and he muttered an apology.

“Like I said, it’s been a long day.”

“It’s okay,” she replied. “But we need to move to an exam room while we wait for your brother and sister to arrive. We have to keep this room free for triage.”

“No problem.” He stood and stretched, working the aches and kinks out of his back and shoulders. It felt good to move, and now that the baby wasn’t crying, his muscles could actually relax and release the tension of the day.

He made a quick gesture with his hand and Penny stood as well, ready to follow him. Then he turned to face Darcy and she quickly looked away, a faint pink staining her cheeks. Interesting. Had she been watching him?

A small, petty part of him hoped she liked what she saw. It was silly, he knew, but just the thought that she might still find him attractive appealed to his ego. She had been the one to walk away all those years ago, leaving him to wonder what he could have said or done differently. It was nice to think he wasn’t the only one who harbored secret regrets over the way things had ended between them.

“Where to?” he asked, striving for a casual tone. The last thing he wanted was for her to realize how much he was affected by seeing her again. Her presence brought back too many memories, too many emotions. He didn’t have time for this right now—he had to focus on finding this baby’s parents and catching the Alphabet Killer before they claimed another victim.

Besides, he wasn’t stupid. Darcy had left him before. And even though the only option for them was friendship, he wasn’t going to let his guard down again for the sake of nostalgia. It just wasn’t worth it.

Darcy led him back into the main bay of the emergency room, then guided him to a room to the left of the main nurses’ station. “Why don’t you have a seat,” she said, indicating the chair with a nod. “I’m going to call in a bassinet for this little one.”

“Do you need me to hold her while we wait for it to arrive?”

Her eyebrows shot up. “Really?” She sounded doubtful, as if he was the last person she’d expect to hold a baby. Once again, he pushed back against the sting of her low expectations. Had she always thought so little of him and he’d just never noticed before? They did say love made a man blind...

“I don’t mind.” Truth be told, he was feeling a little protective. He didn’t know who this baby was or where she’d come from, but by some twist of fate she’d been dropped into his life. Now it was up to him to make sure she was safe until they could figure out her story.

Darcy walked over and gently transferred the baby into his arms. He tucked her against his chest, marveling at the warm weight of her small body. How could such a little thing put out so much heat? She let out a sigh and snuggled against him, and his heart did a funny little flip.

“Let me get you a blanket,” Darcy murmured. She returned a second later and tucked a swath of flannel over the baby, then stepped back and smiled down at him.

“This is a good look for you,” she said softly.

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